In the heart of Appalachia’s Cumberland Mountains, the town of Beverly is home to Red Bird Mission, a poverty relief organization that serves a remote, impoverished population in Bell, Clay, and Leslie counties in southeastern Kentucky. Access to the region can be difficult, depending on the weather and time of year. Public services and infrastructure are minimal, and lack of education is a significant issue. In Clay County, for example, 36% of adults over age 25 didn’t complete high school. Public water is inadequate and there’s no public sewer. Telephone and electricity service are unreliable during bad weather.
According to the 2016 Census data:
- Whites make up over 95% of the population.
- In Clay County, the poorest in Kentucky, close to 48% of all children live below the poverty level, and over 72% of single mothers and their children live in poverty.
- A little over one third of Clay County households have an annual income under $15,000.
- In Bell County, roughly 26% of families live in poverty, and Leslie County is similarly economically distressed.
Red Bird Mission is the local coordinating agency that refers families in need and distributes groceries purchased by Family-to-Family donating families. Red Bird is a National Mission Institution of The United Methodist Church, and since 1921, it has provided educational, medical, and community outreach programs for residents of the Red Bird River Valley.
In addition to its regular sponsorship program to help families living under the poverty line, Family-to-Family also supports “The Gap Pantry” at Red Bird Mission, which provides food to struggling families with incomes just over the poverty line. Through this sponsorship program, low income, working families can “shop” (no funds needed), for the foods they most need at the “Gap” pantry. Read more about “Gap” family sponsorship here.
Red Bird Mission
70 Queendale Center
Beverly, KY 40913
To learn more about the area:
- What’s the Matter With Eastern Kentucky?
- In Depressed Rural Kentucky, Worries Mount Over Medicaid Cutbacks
- Poverty in Clay County: How Poverty Came About
Data Sources: Poverty & Education statistics – U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 American Community Survey; Red Bird Mission